Ranking the Popularity of Toronto's Pro Sports Teams

During the Grey Cup, I wondered aloud on Twitter how many Torontonians under the age of 40 were tuned in. There was a Raptors game on, which I was watching, and if my Twitter feed was any indication, the only tweets about the Grey Cup were from those paid to cover it.

A woman with the handle @cfllady wrote me suggesting the Argos are more popular than the Raptors in Toronto. When pressed for evidence, she could only point to television ratings.

Soon thereafter, my pal Freddie P chimed in to suggest the same. Again, his evidence is television ratings. Without a doubt, the national CFL ratings are higher than Raptor ratings.

I asked Arash Madani about his during our recent chat. After all, he covers the CFL for a living, and if anyone can gauge the popularity of the Argos in Toronto, it's him. Arash agreed with me that there's very little interest in the Argos in Toronto. He laughed when I told him some have suggested the Argos are more popular than the Raptors.

As I see it, the Leafs are far and away the most popular team in this city. If you had asked me a year ago, I'd put the Raptors at #2. The 2015 Blue Jays were so popular in this city, they might be the new #2. If that's the case, the Raptors are a very strong #3. After that, I think TFC is #4, the Argos are #5, the Marlies are #6 and the Rock are #7. I recently charted this here.

  1. Maple Leafs
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Raptors
  4. Toronto FC
  5. Argonauts
  6. Marlies
  7. Rock

Still, Fred persists. I don't understand how he can think it's even close. Remember, we're talking about the GTA, where most people wouldn't recognize a Toronto Argonaut if he was standing two feet away.

How would you rank Toronto's top 7 professional sports teams in the GTA?


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Comments (32 - click here to join in!)

Al The Royal Pain

Personally:

1. Blue Jays
2. Raptors
3. Leafs
4. Argos
5. TFC

The Marlies or Rock aren't even on my radar.

How I think the Average Toronto Sports fan ranks it:

1. Leafs
2. Blue Jays
3. Raptors
4. TFC
5. Argos
6. Marlies
7. Rock

December 10, 2015 @ 11:25 AM

Kyle

At this present moment:

1. Blue Jays
2. Leafs
3. Raptors
4. TFC
5. Marlies
6. Argos
7. Rock

December 10, 2015 @ 11:35 AM

McNulty

1. Raptors
2,. Jays

-------------
3. Leafs
--------------

The rest.

December 10, 2015 @ 11:51 AM

Ryan

I would put the Marlies ahead of the Argos, especially since they're giving people a good look at Nylander, Biebau and other future Leafs. Also gives people a chance to take their family to a local pro hockey game and not have to take out a third mortgage to afford it.

The accepted wisdom on the Argos is that they're hampered by playing in the SkyDome so interest will go up once they move to BMO. I'm skeptical and I really think things won't change too much, at least at the outset. Not sure how much time Bell is willing to give the team to foster a new fan base, if they're losing money on the operation. The TV ratings for Argos games reflect who's tuning in to watch the opponent. I truly don't think we're going to see a ground swell of support, even if they have a good season.

You mentioned with Arash that Kyle Lowry would draw a significantly bigger crowd, if he walked into Real Sports. At this point, James Johnson might be a bigger draw...

December 10, 2015 @ 11:53 AM

James Edgar

Me
1.Maple Leafs
2. Blue Jays
3.Marlies
4.Raptors
5.Toronto FC
6.Argonauts
7.Rock

I REALLY have no interest in basketball so marlies are ahead of the raptors who are really lumped in with TFC the Argos and the Rock for me.

i'd take free tickets to any of the bottom 4 but have a hard time imagining actually paying some cash out of pocket to see them. The Argos could move up if BMO works out.

I have some trouble seeing myself paying for Leaf tickets too but that's more because I don't have that kind of disposable income! jays and marlies i can see me buying tickets for sure , In fact i'm looking at Marlies tickets in February now because my daughter wants to go to a game.

I think your assessment works for most fans except those diehard CFL fans of course.

December 10, 2015 @ 12:29 PM

Argie

The Raps & Jays have been creeping up on a hurting Leaf team in popularity but if things ever go sour for those two teams, they will drop to be near the Argos and TFC.

Both the Raps & Jays have a solid fan base but a lot of their current "fans" are fickle - unlike the Leaf fans who might watch fewer games on TV but would never, ever cancel their season tickets.

December 10, 2015 @ 12:42 PM

Alex

I'm a diehard Argo fan who has grown up with CFL, but I don't see how they could be any higher than 5th on any list. By the averages, here's the (really rough) attendance:

Toronto Blue Jays 30-35,000 (depending on the bandwagon)
Toronto FC 22,000
Toronto Raptors 20,000 (rounding up slightly)
Toronto Maple Leafs 19,000 and change
Toronto Argonauts 17-18,000
Toronto Marlies 5-6,000 depending on the young players

It's really apples to oranges based on the number of home games, and the relative size of the stadia. For example, the Leafs could very likely sell out the Rogers Centre for most if not all of their 41 home games.

FWIW, here's my list:

1. Leafs
2. Blue Jays/Raptors (tie)
4. FC
5. Argos
6. Marlies

I had season tickets to the Rock for a few years, but they peaked nearly 15 years ago and slowly slid to irrelevant after that.

My kids (12 and 5) would tell you their list is 1. Blue Jays, 2. Raptors, 3. Who Cares. They have no interest in the Leafs (I tried), and only a passing interest in FC. The Leafs will struggle to attract younger fans if they continue to rely solely on parents to pass down their passion for the team.

December 10, 2015 @ 1:49 PM

Doug

I was at a Sports Bar in Richmond Hill two Saturdays ago to watch the Leaf game. We were 2 out of 30 people in the bar and the only ones that wanted the Leaf game on so were designated to one TV. The rest of the 6 TV's were on the Raptors Game with the sound up. It felt very strange...a couple of years ago it would definitely have been the Leafs.

December 10, 2015 @ 1:57 PM

JP

Since July, I really think if you took a gauge of interest in the GTA it would go:

1) Blue Jays
2) Maple Leafs
3) Raptors

*big gap*

4) TFC
5) Argos

*big gap*

6) Marlies
7) Rock

Generally, I think Toronto goes Leafs, Jays, Raptors as its 1, 2, 3 but I think the city (and country) has shown that if they Jays are a contender they can take the top spot (at least for a while).

For me personally I really only follow the Jays and Raptors. Hockey lost me years ago.

December 10, 2015 @ 2:08 PM

JP

FWIW - there is no way the Argos are more popular than the Raptors. The CFL gets great TV numbers, but it seems pretty likely those numbers are driven by viewers out west.

I'm 33 and live downtown. I know plenty of Jays, Leafs and Raptors fans. Some TFC fans too. I honestly can say I don't know a single person who follows the Argos or the CFL.

I don't wish the Argos any ill will. I just think it's not a factor in the city anymore.

December 10, 2015 @ 2:13 PM

JP

I read an article recently that suggested Facebook likes were a decent method of measuring interest in teams (at least for the younger demo).

Here's how the Toronto teams fare:

Raptors: 1,792,000 likes
Blue Jays: 1,410,000 likes
Maple Leafs: 1,290,000 likes
FC: 263,000 likes
Marlies: 60,000 likes
Argos: 46,000 likes
Rock: 37,000 likes

For people who are a bit younger, those numbers seem to reflect the current state of things pretty well, I'd say.

December 10, 2015 @ 2:20 PM

Alex

Facebook likes are an interesting proxy, however they are also somewhat skewed as some organizations invest more in social media activities and presence. There's no question that the interest has to be there, however some companies/teams are better at engaging people online, driving up their likes. Also, it's rare that someone "unlikes" something, so that's also a consideration over time.

That said, I'd agree that these numbers should absolutely be considered.

December 10, 2015 @ 3:16 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Personally, I watch a lot of Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays, but dive deep when they're fun to watch and... well... good.

After the trade deadline, I wouldn't miss a Jays game, because they were entertaining, likeable and a threat to win it all. The end of last season, however, I rarely watched the Leafs, because they were both shitty and unlikeable.

The Raps are a very good team. They won't win it all, but they should win a playoff round this season. They're also fun to watch, so I tune in.

As for TFC, Argos and Marlies, I'll go if I score a free ticket, and I'll possibly tune in for a playoff game, but that's it.

I've never seen a minute of the Rock.

December 10, 2015 @ 4:41 PM

Joel

As an outsider who doesn't live in Toronto I would say Mike rankings are pretty spot on.

December 10, 2015 @ 5:56 PM

Dave

THE MLS cup got 87,000 viewers in Canada. That is just people who forgot to turn their TV off. TFC ratings are next to nothing. Basketball has a niche following in T.O its in no way huge. The Argos will be interesting to watch the response from T.O. I think some will be shocked at how many Argo fans there still are in T.O. 2016 is make or break for the Argos

Jays
Leafs

Raptors
Argos
Rock
TFC

December 10, 2015 @ 6:11 PM

Paul

I have lived in the GTA for all 30 years of my life and I can confidently say that I have never met an Argos fan. In fact, I feel the football culture in this town is driven by gambling. A few number of those people are actually football fans, people who truly embrace the sport, but I mean a few. Do you really see people playing football out there either competitively or recreationally? Some schools have football teams but those are schools with deep-rooted football cultures that go back many years. You won't find football teams in new schools in the GTA.

When we look at hockey, baseball, basketball and even soccer, they all have a cultural imprint in this town. Culture meaning people embracing the sport for what it is, not the gambling. Children and adults playing the sport recreationally and in big numbers. I just don't see it with football. Unless you attend a school that has a football program, it is the sport that you begin to follow when you're 18 and you have time and money to waste.

This city is a Leafs town plus one. The plus one in the summer/fall is no doubt the Jays but winter/spring Raptors. Has apathy hit Leafland? No doubt. But bring in a Stamkos or even a playoff bound team next year and Josh Donaldson will be an afterthought.

I believe the Jays have a larger core fanbase than the Raptors but in 15-20 years that will change, it will be the Raptors. As a high school teacher, I was amazed during the Jays playoffs by the students who said they didn't care about the Jays or baseball but these same kids are Raptors enthusiasts. Why? One word: Drake. These kids didn't skip my class to watch the ball game, I was amazed. The teacher's were excited but I can tell you the kids couldn't care less. I saw as many Red Sox and Yankees hats amongst kids as I did Jays. These kids were listening to Drake gearing up for the upcoming Raptors season. And I spoke to other friends of mine who saw the same thing in their schools.

So my conclusion is this town will always be a Leafs town, currently the Jays are #2 but the Raptors will take over that #2 when Jays fans begin dying off and these Raptors fans begin having children and raising them as Raptors fans

As per TFC, it isn't really fair to compare them to others because they aren't a major league team. If they were competing in the Prem or the Champions League then you can compare apples-to-apples. So maybe the Argos and TFC are a fair comparison. In that case, you can make a case for each but the 18,000 TFC season ticket base has to mean something while at the same time the Argos TV ratings are quite impressive.

December 10, 2015 @ 8:02 PM

Brian Gerstein

When I joined Twitter, and being a huge sportsfan I wanted to incorporate sports into my handle, not with something too generic though as it would be pointless. The only sports team at that time that I followed without any reservations, win or lose, was the Toronto Raptors, and @raptorsdevotee was born.

A little history on why. I grew up in Montreal and spent my first 25 years there, so my teams were the Expos, by far #1, the Canadians, #2, and a passing rooting interest for the Alouettes, so a distant #3.

In '89 I moved for good to Toronto, and there was no NBA team here at that time, and of course not in Montreal ever. As a result, I was able to buy 100% ownership into the Raptors from Day 1, plus I played basketball twice a week throughout most of the year, outside of July/August, and followed the NBA since I was a kid, being a mild Celtics fan, but that was more to do with Larry Bird himself who I admired.

When the Jays were winning back-to-back championships in '92 and '93 I was here, but could not buy into them, as the Expos were still very much in existence, and we all know in '94 how they got screwed over with the best record in baseball at 74-40 when the rest of the entire season was cancelled. Since the Expos demise, I have followed the Jays, but never really bought in. Yes, I preferred they win, but did not care if they lost.

This all changed this past July, when I fell in love with this team and it rekindled my love and passion for the game. I now fully embrace them as my team, with a caveat. Should the Expos return to Montreal again, as long as the name Expos is retained, they would be my #1 team, but the Jays would be my #1A. If they met in the playoffs I imagine I would want the Expos to win, but who knows, as I would only be able to go to Expos games a few times a year, where with the Jays I would be more connected.

The question then is how much during those informative adolescent years are your sports teams shaped, and can you switch allegiances later on when you move. I hope I never have to make that decision, but if so, it would be very interesting.

My own popularity list right now:

1. Blue Jays
2. Raptors

My perception right now in this city:

1. Blue Jays
2. Leafs
3. Raptors (Will change short-term come playoff time, when they got to #2, then revert back to #3)

Rest, I don't even care to use my brain to figure it out.

December 11, 2015 @ 9:33 AM

Douglas

This is what I will call a "based on how much they have delivered for their fans" list. Going back decades, in some cases:

1. Raptors
2. Argonauts
3. Blue Jays
4. Rock
5. Marlies
6. Toronto FC
7. Maple Losers Leafs

Overall, Toronto has to be one of the worst sports fan cities in North America. The commentary in this article does not just apply to hockey at the ACC. http://news.nationalpost.com/sports/nhl/as-garret-sparks-made-history-spectators-headed-for-the-exits-why-toronto-maple-leafs-fans-truly-are-the-worst

December 11, 2015 @ 1:05 PM

Derek

Hi. I'm Derek Welsman. I'm an Argo fan and I live in Toronto.

I love going to games and I already have my seasons reserved for next year.

There. You've met one.

It feels like dissing the CFL is all the rage right now. They're the Nickleback of sports entities!! I've always maintained the CFL is not unlike porn in that a lot of people check it out as a guilty pleasure - but very few admit to it. You know who you are!! :-)

Regardless of rank, the Argos have my continued support regardless of how other people view them. The games are affordable, enjoyable and I like the group of season ticket holders I have gotten to know over the last 15 years or so.

I know! Why don't you guys get off your bums and see a game next year instead of bemoaning something you know very little about.

I'll take you!... if you buy the beer!

GO ARGOS!

December 11, 2015 @ 3:37 PM

Leafs then the others

Toronto is a hockey town first & foremost. As long as the Leafs ice anything resembling a decent product, the Leafs will rule.

The Raptors & Jays need to be very competitive to appeal to more than their respective hardcore fans.

That said, the excitement of the final 3 months of last years' Jays season was magical & glorious. the new Jays management seems to be trying extra hard to snuff out the momentum garnered last year. sadly, it boggles the mind they aren't doubling-down on last season's success.

i'm no longer a football fan but i do recall those super fun Sunday afternoons down at Exhibition stadium with 50,000 Argo fans!

December 11, 2015 @ 3:56 PM

Justin

More time goes on, the less popular the Argos seem to be. I stopped following them altogether around 2010. I specifically remember, the last season I really payed any attention was the year poor Cleo Lemon was QB and the team sucked. After that I never want back. I can literally name more Argos players from their 2006 team at this point than their current team. It really is a shame because they used to be so popular, but hopefully moving to BMO can rejuvenate the fan-base a little bit. There's a substantial evidence of a "new stadium effect" across pro sports - perhaps the Argos can also be the beneficiaries of that.

December 11, 2015 @ 4:26 PM

Uncle Slick

Me
I'm a Torontonian, so I'll always have interest in the home team, even if they are not my team of choice for that sport.
1. Leafs, Jays, TFC
4. Rock
5. Marlies
6. Argos
7. OHL

I have zero interest in basketball.

My social circle:
1. NHL
2. NFL
3. Euro football, not MLS.
4. NBA
5. MLB
6. CHL
7. MLS
8. NCAA football
9. MMA

Very little interest in the Rock, Marlies or Argos.

December 14, 2015 @ 11:30 PM

Wally

My own personal list right now:

1. Toronto FC
2. Raptors
3. Blue Jays / Leafs
5. The rest.

I'm a soccer nut to begin with which is why TFC is tops on my list. Raptors are have been competitive the past several seasons and I like the way Masai runs the team (tho not sure about the coach). Blue Jays have lost a lot of momentum simply by being quiet in the off-season. I don't think new management will have much impact on the team in the short term (unless they start a fire sale). Leafs are rebuilding and actually play a more exciting brand of hockey but the talent level simply isn't there.

Argos I simply don't understand the fascination. Football is no doubt popular in Toronto but I think a majority of people get their fix through the NFL. Not sure if a move to BMO will give them a bump in popularity. Not my cup of tea.

I have been to a Marlies game and enjoyed it but simply don't follow them. Rock I've never watched.

December 15, 2015 @ 2:14 PM

Raheem

My objective list of teams most to least popular in Canada:
1. Toronto Raptors
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Toronto Football Club (TFC)
5. Toronto Argonauts
6. Toronto Marlies
7. Toronto Rock
8. Raptors 905
8. Toronto Football Club II (TFC II)

The Raptors team value is almost as much as the Maple Leafs. Many current Canadian NBA basketball players are from the GTA or the Greater Toronto Area. The Jays if they have one or more good seasons like they did last year, I think they will surpass the Leafs in popularity. TFC, which began in 2007 is a great success as a franchise drawing crowds to BMO Field that is much more then the Argonauts, a franchise over 100 years old draws at the Rogers Centre last year. The Marlies are the most popular of the three farm teams in Toronto even surpassing the Toronto Rock, the National Lacrosse League Team. The Rock are a team of many championships, but are not that popular compared to other Toronto teams. Raptors 905 was just formed this year and while it is one of my favourite teams, it does not get much coverage on TV. TFC II, being the farm team of one of my favourite teams (TFC) is never shown on TV. The tickets are very cheap maybe even free for people to watch TFC II games at Vaughn.

February 19, 2016 @ 3:49 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Raheem

I had no idea there was a TFC II.

February 19, 2016 @ 3:54 PM

Rob J

And as Duthie said, the Raptors are less popular than the Argos

February 19, 2016 @ 5:06 PM

Kaissa from Toronto

As someone has mentioned I have never met an Argo/CFL fan or anyone that has shown any interest at all in the CFL - but have met or know tons of people who follow the NFL closely
Last week I was in a restaurant and instead of showing the Argos/Ticats game they were showing the US Open men's tennis final
On the way home I passed by a sports bar and they were also showing the US open men's tennis final on the main screen as well while on the side screens they were showing an NFL game and highlights from baseball games - anything but the Argos/Ticats game
Is this some sort of massive lie/conspiracy about 'how popular' the CFL is ?!
The Facebook likes seem accurate in gauging interest for various Toronto sport's teams with the Argos ranking well behind Toronto FC and even the Marlies!

September 19, 2016 @ 7:11 PM

Sid_V

Woo hoo, a Conspiracy! It all makes sense now.

The Illuminati are spreading vicious lies about the popularity of the CFL to hide their role in the fake money landing and the election of President Trump. And anyone who catches on will no doubt mysteriously disappear at the hands of the phone cops, just like Johnny Fever did when he revealed that the Ottawa Renegades did not, actually, exist. #WKRP

September 20, 2016 @ 7:11 AM

Kaissa from Toronto

So, all the people here are lying about their disinterest in the Argos and the CFL ?
The attendance figures pretty much tells you all you need to know - the lowest attendance in the league in by far the biggest market

September 20, 2016 @ 2:26 PM

Sid_V

Kaissa, "all the people here" is hardly a scientifically-valid sample. Nor is "On the way home I passed by a sports bar and they were also showing the US open men's tennis final on the main screen as well while on the side screens they were showing an NFL game and highlights from baseball games ". I would be interested to know if that bar shows TFC if they are playing on a Sunday, or would they put on NFL instead? (I already know the answer, BTW, and soccer fans would not be happy).

I have never met anyone who admitted to being a TFC fan - doesn't mean that they don't exist. It just means I don't hang out in the same circles. And it was only two or three years ago that TFC was playing in front of home crowds smaller than the Argos got last home game.

The thousands of people on the TTC going to Argos games, and going down via the GO trains, and driving down to Exhibition Place to take in an entertaining football game do, in fact, exist. Just because you have never seen it, does not mean they do not.

September 21, 2016 @ 11:18 AM

sid_v

Marlies average attendance last year was below 6400, for a championship-caliber team and with ticket sales subsidized by the NHL club. Arggghh. OHL teams draw better. But nobody knows this because of a conspiracy.

September 21, 2016 @ 11:22 AM

Wally

@Sid_V

"And it was only two or three years ago that TFC was playing in front of home crowds smaller than the Argos got last home game."

This is true. But the stadium also held 10,000 less seats. So TFC has 12-15k in 20k stadium. Argos have 12-15k in a 30k stadium. Big difference.

September 22, 2016 @ 12:37 PM

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